Speeding Ahead: Mikie Mahtook looks to prove AFL success is just the start

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays have big plans for Mikie Mahtook. They drafted him with their second first round pick in the 2011 draft, 31st overall, and signed him for 1.15 million dollars. And once they signed him, they sent him to the Arizona Fall League to make his professional debut. And Mahtook didn’t disappoint. He hit .338 with 3 doubles, a triple, 3 homer, 14 RBI, 5 stolen bases, a .410 OBP, and a .544 SLG in 18 games (68 at-bats). He was voted into the AFL Rising Stars Game, although he didn’t make a plate appearance. And Mahtook and the Rays hope it’s just the beginning.

Mikie Mahtook is one passionate baseball player. He leaves everything on the field every single game. And when he makes plays, he shows it. Much to the dismay of his college opponents, Mahtook wore his emotions on his sleeve at LSU, pumping his fist whenever he made a great catch in centerfield or had a key hit. But he is more than just an emotional player- he’s a talented one. Mahtook is a 4-tool player, featuring nice power and pure hitting ability, especially for a centerfielder, while also possessing great speed with nice basestealing instincts along with nice defensive ability. And he showcased his skills at LSU in addition to the AFL, posting a ridiculous .383/.496/.709 line this college season for the LSU Tigers with 12 doubles, 5 triples, 14 homers, 56 RBI, 29 stolen bases (9 CS), and 41 walks compared to just 32 strikeouts in 56 games (196 at-bats). He showed an advanced feel for hitting that makes him an even better prospect.

Mahtook moves fast in the baseball field. If he sees a ball hit in his direction, he’s going to do everything in his power to get to it. If he sees an opportunity to steal a base to help the team, he’ll risk it. But how fast will he move through the minors?

Mahtook isn’t quite an elite prospect. He doesn’t fit the mold of a B.J. Upton or Desmond Jennings-esque high-upside outfielder who can do everything and everything well. But he does everything he can to maximize his ability. He has a nice line drive swing with some power and a good eye at the plate, and he’s an intelligent and efficient baserunner. Defensively, he makes good reads in centerfield and makes up for his below-average his arm with outstanding hustle. He’s a vintage Rays player, being unabashedly aggressive in every facet of the game. Having already gone all-out, Mahtook doesn’t have too much room for upside. But he has the ability to be an awfully good major league baseball player, and move pretty quickly through the minors. Mahtook will start 2011 at Low-A Bowling Green with the potential to get up as high as Double-A Montgomery by the end of the season. Mahtook will be one of the first players from the prolific 2011 draft to make an impact for the Rays. And that could happen sooner rather than later.